View Royal's history is closely linked to the entire region. The Esquimalt First Nation, a Coast Salish indigenous people, have occupied View Royal since time immemorial. It began when early inhabitants of today's Esquimalt Harbour crossed an isthmus, now Portage Park, to harvest seafood in Portage Inlet. European settlement began in the 1850s by Kenneth Mackenzie who established a farm known as Craigflower Manor. In the mid-19th century, Dr. John Helmcken, Vancouver Island's first doctor and later speaker of the British Columbia Legislative Assembly, paid the Hudson's Bay Company $5 per acre for hundreds of acres of land between Esquimalt Harbour and what is now Victoria General Hospital. Land was cleared for Victoria's growth. In 1912, the Island Investment Company bought 80 acres (32 ha) of land below Four Mile Hill, fronting on the harbour, from Dr. Helmcken's son James. They marketed lots as "View Royal" because of their "royal view", which gave the town its name.
View Royal remained unorganized for over half a century. By the 1950s, things had begun to change. In 1959, a group of residents in the Shoreline Drive area circulated a petition urging annexation by Esquimalt. Several studies and referenda came and went but View Royal continued with its unorganized status. In 1966, the Capital Regional District emerged bringing with it regional approaches for delivery of some services such as sewage collection. Then a Price Waterhouse study presented three options: status quo, union with Esquimalt, or incorporation as a town. The town's incorporation became official December 5, 1988.
Many historic sites can still be found in View Royal including:
- Four Mile Pub & Six Mile Pub: two historic "road houses" or pubs that have existed for approximately 150 years.
- Craigflower Manor & Schoolhouse: one of Canada's National Historic Sites. Completed in 1856, the Manor site was one of four original farms set up by the Hudson's Bay Company as part of their obligations in settling Vancouver Island. The site housed the McKenzie family in the Manor as well as twenty other dwellings, a saw mill, a flour mill, a blacksmith's shop, a brick kiln, slaughterhouse and a general store. The Craigflower Schoolhouse, the companion adjacent site to the Manor, is located across a municipal border. The two properties are located at the intersection of Admirals Road, Craigflower Road and Island Highway.